Remembering Jounieh: Book Extract
A short story set in the battle for Beirut in 1976. Leah a beautiful Muslim student is embarking on a dangerous love affair with a Christian banker in the last days of the civil war in Beirut. The couple, after a near debacle because they are spotted walking hand in hand by a unit of muslim militia, decide to go to the resort town of Jounieh to the north of the city for a weekend away from the fighting. There they consummate their love on a deserted beach. However, fate has the last word and misfortune befalls them as they travel back to West Beirut reminiscing on the happiest day of their lives.
Remembering Jounieh - Part 1
As the sleek Middle Eastern Airways Boeing 707 jetliner, with its Cedar Tree logo emblazoned on its tail, descended through 10 thousand feet, I saw from my window seat the city of Beirut, once the Paris of the Middle East, engulfed in pillars of black smoke. The giant bird continued to circle as it descended, first passing over the Palestinian enclaves near Beirut airport, then the Hotel district which was now a moonscape of rubble and acrid black smoke, and then Jounieh, the resort playground across the bay from the city itself.
Jounieh, with its fine low rise hotels, noisy bazaars and night clubs, and its miles of pure soft yielding white beaches, covered in sun beds and umbrellas, was a two fingered gesture at the war across the bay. I always marvelled at the pure hypocrisy of a people at war a mere 15 miles across the water, which at night and at weekends could play so hard in this haven of pure excitement.
But, I had played there too. When Beirut itself was too much for me, I played in Jounieh, and while I played I listened to the boom of cannon fire and watched the tracer light up the night sky over Beirut like the 4th of July. Yes I had played, I had loved, and I had lost too. My mind wound back almost six months to a couple of days which will forever be indelible in my being.
From my fourth floor office in a newly converted corner of the Royal Hotel Beirut in the heart of the Beirut hotel district, I looked at the monitors which displayed the forex platforms that we used to conduct forex trades for the students of the forex training centre. Outside I could hear the intermittent muffled sound of sniper fire, through the window blinds. I walked to the window and pulled aside the blind, squinting as the bright early morning sun streamed through the gap in the blind.
I looked out, almost expecting to see a rifle muzzle pointing my way from the roof of the Phoenician Hotel opposite. But, all I could see were rows of blinded or curtained windows, of the hotel over the road and a few guests down below in the foyer courtyard who were, as they had luggage with them, presumably waiting for a cab to take them to the airport.
They were lucky; they were getting out of the city. I wondered how many more days I would be here in this god forsaken city, before it became too dangerous even in the protected confines of a western hotel. As each day past, the sound of gunfire within the hotel district of Beirut was more noticeable. The Christian Phalangist forces had already taken over the top floor of the hotel and were now returning sniper fire in earnest. Even the streets were becoming more and more hazardous.
Remembering Jounieh - Part 2
Yesterday I had been sitting in a side walk café called the Beirut Star on Allenby Street, waiting for Leah to finish work and join me, when an open truck bearing a Soviet heavy machine-gun known as a Douchka, careened around the corner. The gunman was holding its grips with both hands to keep his balance, and firing indiscriminately into the air. It happened so fast that I did not have time to think, let alone take cover. My Elliniko kafedaki (Greek Coffee – a very popular coffee in Beirut) was halfway to my mouth when the Douchka rounded the corner, and it was still in the same position when it disappeared from sight.
Later, after Leah had joined me and I told her about the incident, she laughed, that infectious husky laugh which had drawn me to her in the first instance.
“Those things remind me of American westerns. She laughed. You know those riding broncos.”
I smiled at her turn of phrase. “You mean bucking broncos or bronco riding, Leah, not riding broncos.”
“Sorry my English never seems to improve.” She pulled a hurt face at me and then poked her tongue out at me. I joined in her laughter. “I would be happy to speak one other language well.” I ventured. But you Leah, a speaker of five languages, worry about a silly misquote like that. I smiled at her. Anyway, I heard on the English station yesterday, that the Douchka were known as ‘water-skiers’, because many people thought the gunman looked as though they are water skiing.”
“I’ve heard that too.” Leah replied. She smiled as she continued. “One day when we have time I’ll explain all you want to know about this terrible war. Anyway, you do speak another language well. You speak Greek don’t you?”
“True.” I replied, with a rueful smile. “I’m not sure I speak it that well. But I get by. Leah, will we ever have enough time to ourselves for me to hear your stories? You must realise that the Training Centre must evacuate soon. We cannot endanger the lives of the staff and students for much longer.”
“But am I not a student too?” She replied. “Will I not be evacuated too?”
Remembering Jounieh - Part 3
I looked at her. Her head was turned towards the street, showing me her profile. She was very beautiful in an exotic way, not a true beauty, but there was something about her which made men’s heads turn when she walked by. Like many Lebanese girls she had dark rings under her eyes, which served to highlight her large green eyes. She wore her jet black hair long, just below the shoulders, so when she turned her head, her hair swayed around her head like leaves dancing in the wind. At 5’7 she was tall, her long shapely legs supporting a slim waist, and perfect upper body. Her breasts, although seemingly small, were shapely and stood proud underneath her T-shirt. Occasionally on evenings when we had eaten at a proper restaurant and she wore a blouse, I would catch a glimpse of her cleavage, and often wondered what it would be like to rest my head there.
I desperately hoped she would be evacuated and that her parents would not forbid her to travel outside the country, as we had become very close friends over the last few months and we were always in each other’s company. I often wondered whether we would we become more than friends? Yes, I had a feeling that when the time was right, something special would happen.
“Sam?” Leah’s voice cut through my revere. “You are miles away.”
“Sorry. I wasn’t miles away, I was much nearer than that.” I said locking onto her eyes.
“What were you thinking? Where were you then?” She smiled suddenly, knowingly. “Have you never seen a beautiful woman?” She teased, tossing her hair as her head turned, and leaning back in her chair so that her breasts stood even more proudly, pointing directly at me.
I laughed and looked at my watch. “Time we got going,” I ventured. “Curfew is in half an hour. We should go.”
Leah stuck her tongue out at me. “Fuck you!” she mouthed. I pretended not to understand. I wanted her to say those words out loud in her French accent which rounded out the roughness and made the words sound like a wonderful promise.
“Fuck you!” She whispered. Looking me directly in the eyes. She held her gaze for a few seconds and then a smile broke out on her lips. She let her eyes drop to my groin area and I was sure that she had noticed a movement there. Now I was flustered. She had this knack of making me lose control of my sexual emotions with just a glance, or a well-timed touch, or the way she held her body, or simply a knowing smile.
I stood up quickly, took her hand and pulled her up from her chair. Her mouth was no more than six inches from mine, her lips slightly apart, and her eyes half closed so I could not see exactly where she was looking. I could feel her breath brushing my lips. We stood there for what seemed a lifetime but it was only a few seconds, and then I broke the spell.
“We must hurry!” I urged gruffly. “You know what will happen if either of us are caught out and about during curfew?”
We left the cafe and headed towards the Hotel Lebanon. I was hoping that we would make it before curfew broke. Leah’s apartment was not more than 100 yards from the hotel where my firm had taken a couple of suites for the management staff. My heart was racing and I was desperately hoping that Leah would come and stay at the hotel with me tonight. I took her hand as we walked along the sidewalk. She glanced at me and smiled, then squeezed my hand.
“I’m frightened to be alone.” She said. “Can I come and stay with you tonight?”
I must have had a surprised look on my face because she promptly said.
“I mean stay as in stay as a guest not as your lover.” She said in her best husky voice. She smiled again and then winked at me. I burst out laughing and she joined in the laughter shaking her head and letting her hair swirl around her face.
Over the laughter I did not hear the sound of a racing engine approaching down the street behind us. When I turned I saw it was a Douchka and its gunman was staring directly at me. The big hand on the clock on the front of the Hotel Lebanon had just hit the twelve. Nine o’clock and we were seconds from the hotel. I shouted to Leah to run and started to drag her towards the hotel entrance. Our hands unlocked as she slipped over and sprawled across the pavement. I turned back to help just as the Douchka screamed to a halt. The gunman stepped off the vehicle and walked over to us.
About the Author
Philip was born and educated in the United Kingdom. He joined Citibank in London before moving to Athens where he worked as a foreign exchange trader for both Citibank and Chase Manhattan Bank. Philip was then posted to Citibank's Middle East North African Training Centre in Athens/Beirut as the operations manager and a foreign exchange trainer. After returning to the United Kingdom Philip joined Union Bank of Switzerland as the Head of Learning and Development and introduced trading simulations as a safe way for new traders to trade. In 1993 he was appointed Head of Learning and Education for UBS in North America. He later left the bank and went into partnership with two colleagues and set up a successful financial training company (New Learning Developments) in New York City. At New Learning Developments he developed relationships with all the major investment banks such as Goldman, Lehman, JP Morgan, and other major financial institutions such as The Federal Reserve Bank, Chase, Citibank, ABN-AMRO and the World Bank. In 1999 he returned to London where he worked as a training consultant to financial services institutions and the Ministry of Defence. In 2001 he went to Greece where he wrote books to teach English as a second language as well as developing knowledge databases for on-line brokerage houses. He returned to London in 2012 where he works with autistic children and conducts webinars on foreign exchange and on-line retail trading. He has also written several fictional short stories, nine books on forex and is currently writing his first novel titled Operation Gladio.
Discover other titles by the author:
If I Could Paint Your Picture
The Old Woman of Mani
Sparky the Baby Green Dragon
Master Trading the Financial Markets
Trading with Traders (8 volumes)
Operation Gladio (released September 2016)
All titles available on Amazon.
More by this Author
The Old Woman of Mani is a science fiction short story written by Philip Michael Cooper and published by Amazon, Smashwords and FeedARead. Its the story of a 'Transitional' an alien living on earth.
Operation Gladio is a novel written by Philip M Cooper. Greece, Germany and Russia decide to form an unholy alliance with the objective to break the back of democracy in Europe and crash the Euro.
No comments yet.